Photos courtesy of Bühler.
Industrial roller mills in Pakistan grind up to half of the 26 million tonnes of wheat harvested in the country each year. During the past 60 years, there has been a tremendous increase in milling capacity in Pakistan as the number of commercial flour mills has risen from 19 to 915 during that period, with daily milling capacity now standing at 77,275 tonnes (wheat equivalent), according to the Pakistan Flour Mills Association.
One of those mills is located at Port Qasim in Karachi, Pakistan, and is owned by Sunridge Foods Private Limited, a company that was founded just three years ago. The mill became operational in May 2017 and took 21 months to complete. Cost of the project was around $4 million.
Muhammed Amin, chief executive officer of Sunridge Foods, told World Grain the company saw a tremendous opportunity in the flour milling business.
“Pakistan is a large wheat flour market,” Amin said. “However, there are no national brands, whereas in neighboring India there are many national and regional brands. Secondly, the quality of wheat flour is far less than desired and consistent. Therefore, we thought it was a good opportunity to build a wheat flour brand based on product hygiene and consistent quality.”
The facility is Pakistan’s first and only PesaMill, the first industrial process technology for the production of whole wheat atta flour. The milling process, developed by Bühler, includes a three-step cleaning process that removes all dust, dirt and impurities. The end-to-end automated process eliminates all manual handling and delivers high quality whole wheat flour consistently.
“Pakistan has huge consumption of whole wheat chakki atta flour,” Amin said. “This need is mostly catered by neighborhood stone mills (the so-called Chakki Mills). Bühler’s PesaMill has made it possible to produce the same quality wheat flour in a safe and controlled environment where the consumer can get consistently quality flour.”
While a stone mill can only handle about 300 kilos of wheat per hour, the PesaMill can process up to 130 tonnes of wheat per 24 hours. Besides having a much larger throughput, the PesaMill can produce multiple types of atta flour each day (stone mills are usually geared to produce just one) and it also grades higher in the area of product safety and is easier to maintain.
In addition, the PesaMill uses up to 10% less energy than a stone mill and yield can be increased by 1.5%.
Flour that is produced from PesaMills has received certification from the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority as 100% whole wheat flour.
While the International Grains Council projects that Pakistan will export 700,000 tonnes of flour in 2017-18, with much of it going to neighboring Afghanistan, the Sunridge Foods mill in Karachi for now is producing flour exclusively for domestic consumption, Amin said. “Our current focus is the Pakistan market,” he said. “Sunridge whole wheat flour is the only brand that is available nationwide. All others are local and regional brands. We currently have distribution to 15 cities. We have one distributor who covers the top four cities and in the other 11 cities we have one distributor each. We supply products to our distributors who, through their sales force, sell to retail outlets. Our brand is now available to almost 6,000 retail shops.”
He said 40% of the company’s flour sales go to hypermarkets, supermarkets and self-service stores, while 60% is sold to small neighborhood stores.
Amin said Sunridge Foods is planning to enter the export market in the next few months with shipments of flour to Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and North America.
Although the company is solely focused on atta flour production today, Amin said there is room for expansion in the new mill, and that the company plans to add fortified flour, high fiber flour and a specialized flour for paratha to its product line in the future.
The new highly automated mill features a pre-cleaning and intake section for wheat, which then goes through a first and second cleaning, then on to the milling section, where the atta flour is produced, and finally to the finished product section where it is packaged for delivery. “It is fully automated from end to end,” Amin said. “Once wheat is put into the silo, there is no manual handling. Automatic packaging machines are linked to the plant, which delivers packaged bags to the conveyor without any manual handling.”
Before arriving in the milling section, the wheat goes through two cleaning sections featuring Bühler equipment. The first cleaning section includes flow balancers, a MTRC-150/200 separator with 24-tph capacity, a MTSD 65/120 destoner with 12-tph capacity, indent cylinder, scourer and dampener before arriving at two 6-tonne tempering bins. After tempering, the wheat is sent to the second cleaning section where it again runs through a destoner, scourer and separator. “It has a multiple, optimized cleaning process for ensuring wheat is free from any type of impurities, before sending it to the milling process,” he said. “The wheat is then ground on the PesaMill and the (atta) is sent to storage bins, which are directly connected to the packing bins via a screw conveyor and fast, highly automated packing machines, which deliver a packaged, sealed product.”
After leaving the cleaning house, the wheat passes through a scale and a magnet before it is processed in the PesaMill, which has a throughput of up to 50 tph. It is then conveyed to Bühler MPAV-8 plansifters, which segregates three different ways. One stream leaves the plansifter and goes directly to storage after passing through a scale and magnet. The second stream leaves the plansifter and goes through four Bühler MDDY-250/1250 roller mills, two Bühler Vibro-Sieving machines, four eco-sifters, and another Vibro-Sieving machine before conveyed to storage. The third stream runs through the sifter and back through the PesaMill before being sent to storage.
The mill’s production capacity is 130 tonnes per 24 hours, and it has one grain storage silo with a capacity of 3,500 tonnes with “room to add three more silos of the same capacity,” Amin said The mill, which runs eight-hour shifts, six days a week, has 12 full-time employees and another 15 that are outsourced, Amin said.
He said Sunridge’s vision is “to be recognized as the most trusted food company.” It has invested in the plant and allied processes with a long-term view of developing a premium food brand in the market, which sets a new benchmark in food safety and product quality. “We aim to consistently deliver what we promise to our consumer and customers,” Amin said.
Pakistan’s milling industry
While Sunridge Foods’ new flour mill is located in the Sindh Province, the largest concentration of wheat mills is in the Punjab Province, which accounts for a little over half of the population but about 75% of the nation’s cereal production.
One of the world’s largest canal irrigation systems crisscrosses the Indus River plain that extends most of the length of the country. Wheat has been cultivated there for thousands of years. Abundant water from the Himalayan snowmelt allows for reliable yields that have been steadily increasing in recent years thanks in part to the introduction of improved varieties.
Larger commercial farms capable of selling directly to millers are the rule in Punjab as compared to other parts of the country. As a result, the Punjab Province is a large net supplier of both wheat and flour to the rest of the country.
Millers in the Sindh, Balochistan and Khybere Pakhtunkwa provinces as well as the federal capital of Islamabad buy much of their wheat from Punjab and then compete with wheat flour produced by Punjab millers. Sindh Province, which is semi-arid over much of its area, cannot grow enough wheat to feed all its citizens, including the 20 million in the city of Karachi.
Workers stack bags of flour on pallets in preparation for shipping.